Oct. 26, 2024 – March 2, 2025
From the autumn of 2024, Kunsthal Rotterdam will be presenting the exhibition DIVA. DIVA celebrates the unprecedented power and boundless creativity of iconic performers who have been challenging the status quo with their bravura and ambition. The exhibition explores and redefines the once controversial term diva – originally meaning goddess – and how it has been embraced by performance culture. With over sixty looks and costume designs by world-famous designers — worn by people like Maria Callas, Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Cher, Elton John, Rihanna, and Billy Eilish –, the exhibition shows how these divas have used their performing arts to push boundaries and make a lasting impact on society.

DIVA takes you on an immersive journey: from the world of 19th century opera divinities right up to the contemporary pop and rock ‘n’ roll culture of global superstars.  The first part of the exhibition zooms in on the historical context of the diva. Exhibited are costumes worn by early opera stars like Adelina Patty and Jenny Lind, as well as Maria Callas’  impressive stage ensemble for the 1952 production of the opera Norma. Personal objects, handwritten texts, and iconic costumes demonstrate how actresses like Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt, and Marie Lloyd were at the forefront of the first feminist wave, and how divas like Josephine Baker, Mae West, Vivien Leigh, and Marilyn Monroe were responsible for shaping popular culture. 

The second part of the exhibition celebrates the diva of today and shows how contemporary artists are constantly reinventing the concept of the diva in the originally male-dominated world of film and music. Highlights include the costumes designed by Bob Mackie for celebrities like Tina Turner and Pink; Elton John’s 50th birthday look, designed by Sandy Powell; the pink Julien MacDonald dress, with matching diamond-studded rubber boots, Shirley Bassey sported at Glastonbury in 2007; the black and gold dress Whitney Houston wore when she collected three Grammy’s for the soundtrack of The Bodyguard; the lilac deconstructed Versace suit worn by Lil Nas X; and no less than five looks worn by superstar Rihanna. 


The exhibition DIVA is realised in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum London. 

Sketch of Mackie look worn by Cher for the inaugural Rock Music Awards, 1975 Original Artwork by Costume and Fashion Designer, Bob Mackie
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Photographic negative, Billie Holiday at her only ever Lodon appearance at the Albert Hall. Jack Parnell band backing her, photographed by Harry Hammond, Engeland, 1954 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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Photograph of Maria Callas taken as Violette in La Traviata. Photo: Houston Rogers © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Friday open until 22:00
On 19 April - during Friday Night LIVE - the Kunsthal will be open in the evening.
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